Job 16 – Do Not Cover My Blood

“Earth, do not cover my blood;
    may my cry never be laid to rest!
19 Even now my witness is in heaven;
    my advocate is on high.
(Read the rest of the chapter, here.)

Just like Job’s friends, collectively we have made miserable comforters.  Job says “God has turned me over to evil men and thrown me to the clutches of the wicked.”  He points out the visceral signs of his unjust punishment: “my face is red with weeping, deep shadows ring my eyes, yet my hands have been free of violence, and my prayer pure.”  Even so, his friends stand idly by, offering false piety and thinly veiled scorn instead of truly loving help.  Couldn’t Job’s words be used to condemn us, in the broadest sense of the word, in our apathy towards our fellow man?

I’ve been paying more attention to the news as the corona virus continues to spread, and as I learn to use Twitter better (it’s not my favorite social media but I feel it necessary for the blog…Instagram is my natural habitat).  This renewed awareness reminded me of all the unanswered cries that are still being called out, and I’m ashamed of how little I’ve cared to know.

The rapid spread of the corona virus is a big deal, I’m not trying to make light of it.  But please, do not panic, and do not put your compassion on hold.  A few stats from Johns Hopkins to put things in perspective: As of February 26, 2020, there have been 81,322 cases reported world-wide, with 2,770 deaths (none of which have yet occurred in the US).  The flu, on the other hand, a virus mutation we see pop up every year that hasn’t caused global panic since World War I, has an estimated one billion cases worldwide per year, with up to 646,000 deaths annually, worldwide.  They are sobering statistics, and I truly debated sharing them because it may do more to fan the flames of fear than to calm them.  My hope is that it will remind you, my reader, that we function in a world full of contractible, deadly viruses already.  It is a fact of life that demands more compassion from us, not less-just make sure to wash your hands.

Don’t let the corona virus blind you to the ongoing injustices in the world. A quick run-down of the stories I’ve been following.  And again, there are a lot more that we could get into, but this is what I’ve been able to read about in between the hustle and bustle of daily life with two kids and a farm:

  1. The latest humanitarian crisis in Syria – there is a lot of biased information out there.  Just a simple search on the subject returns not only articles from the BBC, which I generally trust, but also front-page hits from Russian outfits like Sputnik and RT, which I don’t trust as much.  Given our own president’s lukewarm (at best) interest in Syria, it’s not a topic that gets the attention appropriate to the magnitude of the crisis.  As best as I can gather, almost one million people have been recently displaced by fighting in the northern province of Idlib.  It is winter, and people are having to spend nights in below-freezing temperatures without food or shelter.  Children are dying from cold, others are so traumatized they’ve stopped speaking.  Pregnant mothers are under enough stress to cause premature births and miscarriages.
  2. The ongoing border crisis, especially as it pertains to children – Technically, the Trump administration ended its policy of separating families at the border in June 2018.  But over 1,000 families have still been separated since that time, including the heartbreaking case of the parents who were deported, after being promised as part of their deportation deal to be reunited with their four-month-old son, without him.
  3. Wet’suwet’en blockades in Canada – In short, the Wet’suwet’en have been protesting Canada and oil companies seizing unceded lands for pipeline projects.  Part of this protest has taken the form of rail blockades, which are seriously impacting the economic realities of Canada.  It is hard to get truly impartial news on this issue, as well.  It’s receiving very little main-stream media coverage from outside Canada and most Canadian news sources are skewed to favor the Canadian government and Canadian business interests.  I support the Wet’suwet’en people’s right to defend their territory because it is the sovereign right of any country or people to do so when threatened with invasion.  I further support it because they are doing important ecological work in protecting fragile ecosystems from the damages that come with pipelines, including leaks and spills, groundwater contamination, and habitat disturbance.  The IG account of @smogelgem provides a real-time account of what is actually happening, with opportunities to support the protesters whether you live near or far.

We all get compassion fatigue.  We all need to take care of ourselves – you can’t pour from an empty cup, etc etc.  But we can also all try better.  Do a little more.  Especially at a time when the world is facing a global pandemic.  You see, I’m worried that this corona outbreak is going to make people become insular, less willing to reach out and help those in need and more likely to protect their own interests.  This is not the time to be callous.

I try very hard not to ask you to do more than I do, so let me list for you the mini-activisms I did while writing this blogpost.  Actually, before I do, I want to remind you that I do not list this stuff to brag.  I just want to show that you really can do it, too, even if I have to guilt you into it.  I currently have a cold, as does my oldest.  I’m trying to stay on top of laundry and make dinner every night and get insurance for our new commercial kitchen and deal with the leak in my freezer trailer, but I still made time to make a little effort.  If I can do this, then so can you:

I made a small donation to the White Helmets, a boots-on-the-ground organization in Syria dedicated to helping innocent civilians.  I also called my representatives, saying that I think more needs to be done to support Syrian civilians and the work of the White Helmets.  I did my research, and read the stories coming not only out of Syria but from the border, and from Canada. More than anything, I’m talking about it.  Again, I say this not to brag, but to show you what a hassled mom with limited bandwidth can manage.  I may not be able to be out there marching in protests, pulling people from bombed rubble, or providing pro-bono legal council, but I can support those who are.  So now I ask you, can you make a small donation to the White Helmets (the IRC is another good one)? Can you share a #wetsuwetenstrong post on Instagram? Can you call your representatives and tell them that children being held in detention centers at the border is unacceptable?  Together, we can do our part to make sure the cries of the downtrodden are never laid to rest, but answered.

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Romans 15 – The Responsibility of the Strong

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Read the rest of the chapter, here!)

Major takeaways from Romans

This is the second-to-last chapter in Romans, with the last one being mostly greetings and salutations.  It seems fitting to try and tie it all together, so I went back and read Romans again as well as what I had written about in previous chapters.  I write slow, so I’ve been at Romans for a month and a half, which means a lot happened between then and now.  And I made some truly eye-opening discoveries along the way.  Perhaps most paradigm shifting, for me, was discovering the difference in translation between “Faith of Jesus Christ” instead of “Faith in Jesus Christ,” which opens the door to universal reconciliation as well as putting a whole new, joyous meaning on Jesus’ death and resurrection.  (You can read about it in my post on Romans 03,  You Are Holy.)

But as a mother and a farmer,  I am forced into practicality above all else, and my instinct is to leave Romans with actionable points for myself and for you, dear reader.  As such, I would say my biggest actionable takeaway from Romans is this: it is the responsibility of the strong to enact justice and peace for the weak.  Paul talks about this mostly in terms of Jewish and Gentile groups, because that was the major distinguishing factor of this new Jesus-following movement he was fostering at the time.  But it can apply today to so many dichotomies of power: white and black, male and female, corporate and ecological even.

What positions of power do you hold?  You may be surprised.  You can use these positions to amplify your message.  (Not sure what positions of power you hold? This post is a great reminder of ways you are influential in both personal and public life.)  And what message, exactly, should we be amplifying? Inclusion, stewardship, and of course, love.  This will take many forms, but all of them require at least a modicum of effort.

#wetsuwetenstrong

It can start small.  In fact, I urge you to start small.  My specific challenge for you today is to donate $1 (or more if you can!) to the Wet’suwet’en.  The Wet’suwet’en are an indigenous peoples standing up to the Canadian goverment and mining/pipeline corporations that want to invade their unceded land.  They have managed to seriously disrupt trade in Canada (NOT because they are anarchists, but in a desperate effort to protect their home), yet it is getting very little media attention outside of Canada.  Twitter or Instagram, honestly, is the best place to get some information upon it.  The hashtags #wetsuwetenstrong or #shutcanadadown will get you on the right track.  I support them because they are doing important ecological work, and it’s also high time that governments stop bulldozing the wishes of the people over the wishes of big business.

The time for waiting is over.

Next week is the start of Lent with Ash Wednesday.  It is a time of self-reflection, restraint, and waiting.  But too many people have been forced to wait for too long.  Forced to wait for recognition, for justice, for basic human needs and quality of life.  We have no more time to wait on climate change.  And make no mistake, the evils in the world (whatever you perceive them to be) will not wait for us to catch up or catch our breath.  As this change in the season-both liturgical and seasonal-happens around us, I urge you to be active.  Look around you with open eyes at what needs to be changed, and what your role (however small) could be in implementing that change.  Over the next month or two, I’ll be reading about community activism and organizing, and sharing what I learn with you.  I hope that we can all learn something, but we don’t need to wait until then to start doing something now.  It is our responsibility. Let’s get out there.

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Romans 04 – Hope over Faith

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Read the rest of today’s chapter here!)

When faith may be too hard…

It is easy to get disheartened watching the news.  This is probably true at just about any point in history, but I’ve been really affected by it lately:  Mitch McConnell seems hell-bent on rendering the Constitution ineffective in an effort to keep white males in power. Singed koala bears make for a pitiful sight, and then I feel guilty about feeling bad for them before anything else because, yes, there are other problems not being talked about: like the impact those same fires have had on Australia’s indigenous people (a topic totally missing from any news story that I haven’t gone out searching for). A change of residence for Harry and Meghan seems to be the top story in the news cycle over deteriorating international relations and continuing impeachment developments. Yet who am I to judge, because I can’t stop thinking about Kanye and Kim’s walk-in fridge for a family of three – another story that has zero impact on my life but bothers the hell out of me for its sheer excess.

Last post I talked about how it was Jesus’ own faith that saved us, not our faith in Jesus.  When faced with such bleak realities as the ones above, it’s even easier to say “why have faith at all?”  My answer, after reading today’s chapter, is that maybe faith is the wrong word. Maybe we need to have hope.  Faith implies “complete trust and confidence in something.” Don’t get me wrong, having faith is good, but may not be something we are able to carry with us all the time.  Even the most devout have times of doubt, which, by definition, would mean that they lose faith – even if it is temporarily.  That can feel like a failure on the part of the believer and do some real mental damage.

…hope still may be achievable.

Hope, however, means “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”  And it is not to be confused with optimism.  As N.T. Wright explains in his book Paul, “Hope could be, and often was, a dogged and deliberate choice when the world seemed dark.”  He was writing about ancient Jewish and early Christian history, but the same is true now: Hope must be a dogged and deliberate choice on our part.  Wright goes on to say, “You have to practice it, like a difficult piece on the violin or a tricky shot at tennis.  You practice the virtue of hope through worship and prayer, through invoking the One God, through reading and reimagining the scriptural story, and through consciously holding the unknown future within the unshakable divine promises.”

Who doesn’t wish for – hope for – a better world even in the darkest hours? Perhaps the darkest hours are when our desires are strongest, when our hope is strongest.  Our faith and optimism may be gone, but our deep yearning for a better world remains.  This hope is why we keep going to church, keep reading the Bible, keep praying to God.

I agree with Paul, that our righteousness (to use his word) will be attributed to us, especially when we continue to act when there seems to be no divine promise within eminent fulfillment.  Abraham had faith in God before his promise to be a father of many nations.  As I quoted Paul above, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations.”  If we, too, act in hope – hope that we can restore the ecology of Australia and truly the whole world, hope that justice will prevail in the American political system, hope that the fate of those in need will become more important than the address of one royal couple – then we, too, will be blessed by God.

Take Action.

Practically, this means getting out there and acting.  At least I think so.  Paul may disagree – as he spends a lot of this chapter discussing how works alone cannot prove a person’s righteousness.  However, I think that this criticism was more about a blind adherence to the law (whether secular or religious) to the detriment of acting out of love for your neighbor.  In other words, self-betterment over community-lifting.  Religion at large (and Christianity in particular) seems to have a certain propensity for navel-gazing to the point of ignoring the outside world burning down around it.  Self-reflection is good, but you can think a lot of things. Getting out there and doing them?  That truly reveals where your heart lies.

Let me qualify all of this by saying: start small, and don’t burn yourself out.  The world’s problems are huge and cannot be solved by one person, let alone one person in one day.  As a mother who suffers with a chronic condition that can cause overwhelming fatigue myself, I particularly want to reach out to those just struggling to get out of bed and make PB&J’s for their kids’ lunch: you’re doing more than enough already – I am not asking you to push yourself past your limits.

Now, that being said, everyone else look around you. Think of little ways you can act in hope.  My favorite, as always, is calling your representatives.  (Something I did on Tuesday, to urge Congress to do everything in it’s power to keep the US out of a war with Iran).  It just takes a few minutes.  If talking on the phone raises your anxiety, write them a letter or email- it’s not as immediate (since anthrax scares have become a thing letters take a few weeks to get through the security back-up, and there’s just so many emails it takes a while for staff to wade through them, too) but it still gets your voice heard.  Do a change dig (you’d be surprised how much is lurking in your car/purse/nightstand/junk drawer), take it to a Coinstar, and then donate that cash to any cause you deem worthy. It’s money you weren’t missing in the first place, and can make a huge difference for an organization doing good work.  My favorite local organizations that just about any community has are food pantries, the library, and the animal shelter.  Most take cash donations at the door.  Make extra of whatever you’re cooking for dinner, and take it to that neighbor or friend who has the sniffles.  These are little ways to act in hope that require very little work on our part, but can set us – and indeed the world – on the path to larger changes.

Hope isn’t easier than faith. It is a practice, a rigorous practice, to hope.  For many, this post may be all just about semantics, since faith is a rigorous practice, as well.  But if you struggle with keeping your faith in times of trouble, do not worry: you are not alone, and you are not a bad person for facing that struggle.  My hope is that you will keep your hope.  Even if your faith falters, you can still hope for a better world.  Even if your actions seem futile, you can still take those actions. To you, your righteousness will be credited, and the world you hope for, that we all hope for, will be one act of kindness closer.